Levels of reality


(Methodos IV)


Marc Jacquinet


Related to the principle of excluded middle ant to the principle of non-contradiction, some authors, mainly physicians like Basarab Nicolescu, following Lupasco’s contributions; have come to consider the existence of levels of reality that can reconcile the problem of contradiction when the foundational principle is not respected in classical logic or in analyses in traditional reductionist molds that do not consider the advances in complexity theory and complex systems theory. 

“By level of reality [Nicolescu] intend to designate an ensemble of systems which are invariant under the action of certain general laws…  That is to say that two levels of reality are different if, while passing from one to the other, there is a break in the laws and a break in the fundamental concepts (like, for example, causality).  No one has found a mathematical formalism which permits the rigorous passage from one world to another.

This current has to be related to the transcendental realism defended by Lawson while integrating distinct levels of reality or a hierarchical reality in economics (Lawson 1997).  In the socio-economic systems, depending of the research purpose, for example, the study of a sector like insurance or the whole economy, do not offer the same number of distinctive levels of reality.  There are different levels in those systems: the economy, the culture and social realm, the individual milieux, the biological foundations of the individuals, the material world and so on.  Between those levels, the logics and law cannot be necessarily the same, quite the contrary.  And the more we get closer to the human society, less numerous are the general laws and more plenty of local interactions are occurring.

I must finally stress that the included middle is a logic that is more general than the one developed around the principles of excluded middle.  However, the point is not to state that the traditional logic is all-wrong.  For stable phenomena, simple explanations, and human action and moral principles it is well suited.  The included-middle logic is complementary in many instances and superior in others, mainly in the socio-economic realm.  Lupasco stated that “everything is as if we reject the absoluteness of the principle of noncontradicition, if we introduce a contradiction” (Lupasco 1951/1987), which does not mean that he rejects the principle of noncontradiction but its absoluteness. This position is coherent with the literature on fuzzy logic and systems.  Furthermore, the notion of levels of reality is a way to deal with conceptual breaks and breaks in the reality under scrutiny.  The notion of discontinuity is fundamental for understanding the concept of levels of reality.

Marc Jacquinet


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